If you’re inexperienced around the kitchen, you likely have no idea what shortening is and how you can use it for baking. However, to become a better baker and start making pastries that everyone will love, you’ll have to learn some new things.
In this blog, we’ll mostly be talking about vegetable shortening since that’s what the term “shortening” mainly refers to in the baking world. We’ll tell you about the baking ingredients you’ll use during this process, mention the shortening vs. butter debate, and give you some alternatives you may have heard about, like Crisco.
So, wait no more, and start working on your baking game!
And if you want to buy shortening online, visit the Medina Baking website and contact our employees.
What Is Shortening?
Learning what shortening is should be the first thing you pick up from this blog. So, we’ll give you the definition straight away – Shortening is any type of solid at room temperature.
Nowadays, people mostly use vegetable shortening because it is a semisolid fat with a high smoke point but a low water content. This makes it a good option for frying, but a great option for baking, since it gives tender results. Still, shortening can be anything from lard, margarine, and hydrogenated solidified oils to butter.
Shortening doesn’t require refrigeration, doesn’t have odor or flavor, and is 100% fat.
Back in the day, before vegetable shortening came to the cooking scene, lard was the primary fat used for baking. It was called shortening because of how it “shortens” or cuts through the dough. Crisco is the brand that popularized shortening alternatives and became one of the standard baking ingredients of most recipes. Nowadays, Crisco is so popular that most people consider it a synonym for the term shortening.
Different Types of Shortening
Not all baking ingredients are the same. Different types of shortening are useful for different recipes, and to get the best results, you should know when to use each one.
There are four fundamental types you should be aware of:
- Cake/Icing shortening
The solid type usually comes in a can or something similar to a stick of butter. It serves its purpose best when used in pie crusts, bread recipes, and pastries.
On the other hand, Liquid shortening is best for recipes for melted shortening. Cakes would be an excellent option for this type. It is mainly made of soybean oil, so it is ideal for deep-frying. You’ll find liquid shortening sold in boxes and plastic jugs.
The two remaining types of shortening are mostly for professional use. The main difference between them is that cake shortening has emulsifiers added that help retain moisture in the cake you’re preparing. Organic shortening is also worth mentioning since it’s available on the market.
What Is Shortening Used For in the Kitchen?
Keep in mind that shortening has found its way into cooking and baking recipes. To understand its value in baking, you should be aware of how gluten works.
Gluten is the one thankful for any dough being gummy or chewy at the finish line. This result is hoped for when preparing “long” doughs like pizza crust. But, this isn’t what you’re aiming for when making “short” doughs similar to pie crust or croissants. This is when shortening comes to the scene.
It stops the gluten from reaching the molecules, preventing its formation and creating a not-so-stretchy dough.
Another reason why shortening is often among baking ingredients is its power to keep the dough soft after baking. After cooling down, it goes back to its softer state and allows the cookies you made not to be hard after a short time on the counter. On the other hand, the same recipe with butter instead of shortening will produce cookies with a crispier texture some people enjoy.
Frying is also a popular use for vegetable shortening. Its chemical characteristics allow you to fry the dough at high temperatures without wreaking havoc in the kitchen. It doesn’t pop or splatter that easily, so it’s a safer option.
How to Cook and Bake With Shortening
The first step in the process of using shortening for baking is cutting into the flour or a dry flour mixture. This task is most easily accomplished with a pastry cutter, but you can use two knives or your hands.
What you’ll have to do is repeatedly cut the flour into smaller pieces, then coat them in flour. The size of the pieces at the end of your process will determine the result of your work. If you finish with pea-sized pieces of fat, you’ll get results with a flaky texture resembling a croissant.
If you wish to have a crumblier texture similar to streusel, the pieces should be about coarse grain size.
When frying with shortening, place the required amount in a frying pan and allow it to melt and reach the temperature your recipe instructed. Then, add the food to be fried and cook until golden brown.
Shortening vs. Butter
The one thing that people want to know about shortening is how it compares to butter. There are a few differences we should mention.
Firstly, shortening contains 100% fat. That means there is no water in it. On the other hand, butter is only required to have 80% fat and can contain as much as 16% of water. That’s why steam will be produced when baking with butter, and no such thing will happen if you have shortening instead.
The finished product will be different due to these characteristics. Though they both might be delicious, it’s up to you to decide which one is the favorite.
Another difference worth mentioning is the absence of flavor in shortening. There are flavored options on the market, but the one mainly used doesn’t carry much taste. And we all know that butter indeed does.
Now, most old-school recipes will have butter on the ingredients list to keep things traditional, but keep shortening in mind if you prefer to avoid that flavor.
Shortening vs. butter isn’t a simple competition. There are pros and cons to weigh out before making the decision. Regardless of which one of these options you prefer, the one thing you should remember is that baking fats are there to help your recipes. They’ll keep them fresh, crispy, fluffy, or whatever you’re aiming for and give you a tastier result overall.
Order Baking and Powder Products
If you’re looking for a baking and powder products supplier, look no further. Medina Baking & Powder Products is one of South Florida’s largest suppliers on the market and can help your bakery reach its goals as well.
We’re a family-owned company that’s been servicing its customers since 1977. Over the last 40 years, we’ve helped so many people turn their dreams into reality. Visit our website and contact us about any baking products you might be missing and let our team help you.